42: Reading & Writing Books in Norway

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Life in Norway Show Episode 42: Co-writing duo the Lost Viking Writers talk about Norwegian literature and the publishing industry in Norway.

Today I’m joined by Brian Talgo and Brynjulf Haugan, two writers living in Norway. Brian is an expat New Yorker and Brynjulf grew up in Canada, but both have lived in Norway for much of their lives. They are co-writing a trilogy of historical fiction, the first of which is called The Salt of Ancient Tears.

The Lost Viking Writers in Norway

We talk about the publishing industry in Norway, including some of the popular authors and genres. We also look at what inspired them to write a series set in the world of the Vikings. Finally, we look at the challenges faced by budding authors trying to getting published in Norway.

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Introducing the ‘Lost Viking writers'

Brynjulf Haugan grew up in Nelson, British Columbia, a small, quaint town at foot of the Canadian Rockies. At the age of eleven, he and his family moved to Norway, which has been home ever since.

A lifelong history enthusiast, Brynjulf is especially fond of all things Viking and Norse, however any kind of ancient history will likely wake his interest. Brynjulf lives in Moss, a small town just south of Oslo, with his family of four.

Brian M. Talgo, an expat New Yorker, has been writing since childhood. His first novel, The Beauregarde Affair, was published by PfoxChase in 2011; his writing has otherwise appeared in various anthologies published in Norway and abroad.

Brian was a founding member and lyricist of the now-defunct Norwegian prog-rock collective Gentle Knife. Inspired by his Norwegian roots, his youthful fascination for Vikings and the Norse gods eventually led him to the classical Islandic Sagas, which he has drawn upon while seeking to recreate the Old Norse atmosphere of The Lost Viking Saga.

Here are some highlights from the interview:

The Norwegian publishing industry

Brian: “Americans are not big readers as a whole. But my impression is that Norwegians are voracious readers, both newspapers and books. I don't think I've ever met anybody who wasn't a reader of some kind.”

“The thing that's interesting about the Norwegian publishing industry is that they don't have agents. Whereas almost all the other countries I know of, especially the English speaking countries, you can't directly approach a publisher with a manuscript. Whereas in Norway, you just you submit directly to the publisher, which is quite interesting.”

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Brynjulf: “I find that Norwegians do read a lot, but especially over the last maybe 10 years, it's less and less because of social media, videos and TV series. I think it's too easy to pick up your phone and watch a series at night than to pick up a book and turn on the light.”

Brian Talgo & Brynjulf Haugen in Norway

Writing a book set in the Viking Era

Brynjulf describes The Salt of Ancient Tears as historical fiction, with some mystery, a love story, and some thriller elements. He explains where the idea came from:

“The book is based on the Greenland Vikings, who lived in Greenland from around the year 1000 until almost 1500. But they disappeared and no-one really knows what happened to them. We know they didn't come back to Norway or Iceland.

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It was one of the stories my Dad used to tell me as a bedtime story when I was a kid and it always fascinated me. It's an incredible mystery, right? There's lots of theories on what happened to them.”

“I always thought it would be a good idea to use this mystery in a book some way. But the book is not just a historical Viking book, it also plays out in Oslo around our time. So it's a story that plays back and forth from the 14th century to now.”

Links from the show

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Reading and writing books in Norway with the Lost Viking Writers

About David Nikel

Originally from the UK, David now lives in Trondheim and was the original founder of Life in Norway back in 2011. He now works as a professional writer on all things Scandinavia.

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